With 100 tons of zinc saved and 6.5 million pigs successfully weaned with Vitazero, part of the ‘Aim-4-Zero’ approach, Agrimprove, pioneer feed mills and integrators are ready for the ZnO ban in 2022.

The recent (re-)emergence of global viral diseases such as African Swine Fever (ASF) in Asia and Europe, dramatically impacting pig production and epidemy of Covid-19 in humans, leading to the lockdown of whole countries, reinforced the key role of protecting measures. In such contexts, prevention remains the first and permanent barrier for long-term protection of animals and humans, associated to other solutions such as vaccines when possible.

In pig production too, the consciousness by European Union (EU) of the critical value of existing therapeutic arsenal is pregnant with 2 successive measures to avoid emergence of antibiotic resistance. Ban of antibiotic growth promoters (AGP), because of direct contribution to antibiotic resistance, entered in force in 2006. From 2022, therapeutic usages of Zinc Oxide (ZnO) will also be banned, for indirect but proven contribution to antibiotic resistance (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Prevalence of Tetracyclin-resistance genes along time (days) in the digestive tract of piglets fed low, medium or high doses of Zinc Oxide (ZnO) around weaning. Exposure to therapeutic doses of ZnO (~2,500ppm) significantly increased (p<0.05) copy numbers of resistance genes in gut microbiota from 13d. Similar results were found for resistance to Sulfamide. (Extract from Vahjen et al., 2015)

The lessons learned are 1) prevention of diseases must be preferred toward curation and 2) alternative solutions must be preferred to drugs whenever possible.

The ‘Aim-4-Zero’ approach launched by Agrimprove during Eurotier in 2018 englobes the fine-tuning of management, health and nutrition practices, combined with cross-fertilization of expertise and use of Vitazero innovative solutions. The well-known antibacterial action of Medium Chain Fatty Acids, the proven antioxidant action of plants’ polyphenols and the pathogen-binding action of the innovative health fiber combined in Vitazero altogether reduce the need for ZnO around weaning, with a big focus in EU countries, but to a larger extent reduce the dependency of pig producers toward chemical molecules around weaning worldwide.

After 18 months of uses in countries such as Germany, Denmark, Spain, Ireland, The Netherlands and Belgium, the return on experience is very positive. Agrimprove estimates that 6.5 million pigs were successfully weaned with the Vitazero concept (see figure 2). The corresponding saving of 100 tons of Zn, contribute to the building of a responsible food chain for future generations, a core value of Royal Agrifirm group.

Figure 2: Cumulative number of piglets (million heads) successfully weaned with Vitazero since September 2018

One could object this number remains low compared to the 150 million pig census in EU end of 2019. But in situation where stopping the use of medicated ZnO is not yet a full constraint but a matter of proactive decision of pioneer feed mills or pig producers, Agrimprove believes that anticipation in finding the right feeding practices and the right natural solutions such as Vitazero are key to start the effective ban of ZnO of 2022 with already stabilized top performances of pigs at weaning.

Your Agrimprove Expert

Kobe Lannoo
Global Lead Category Management